I was a child Anglophile. Spike. Renaissance Festivals. Elizabeth I. Spice Girls. Nothing was cooler or sexier than bangers and mash and mushy peas. Shockingly, I wasn’t alone in this belief. Sold out Union Jack bedspreads begged the question if an entire generation would gleefully wave the white flag for a place in the commonwealth. To be one of them. Knowing this it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to find out that I was (and am) a huge Harry Potter fan. Magic with a fancy accent? Sign me up. So you can imagine how quickly I bought my tickets to Florida when my family announced plans for a mini-reunion at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Not my favorite parks to be sure but they do have a jewel in their crown. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
I figured it’d be a fun trip where I got a sunburn and drank too much butterbeer. A lot like last time. Little did I know that it’d stoke the interior design loving flame in my heart so hard. Brass, marble, and trim for days. Yes, I was that person taking close up shots of light fixtures at the theme park. Needless to say I compiled quite the dossier. So without further delay I present to you, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Design Dossier. No, I’m not joking. Get your Pinterest ready.
Let’s start off with the Village of Hogsmeade located at Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure. Hogsmead’s look is all rustic, cold (look at all that fake snow!), and gothic.
The furnishings feel less selected and more found on the side of the road. Stairs are built to withstand half-giants, lanterns provide spotty coverage at best, and cleanliness seems to be no one’s top priority. Hogsmeade’s look most translates into cabin-living for us muggle folk. Antlers, plaid, and a heavy coat of dust serve as the only decorative elements. However with some friends, a warm fire, and a glass of beer (butter or not) this place could turn into the coziest of homes away from home. Especially if you’ve been sent to boarding school.
From Hogsmeade we head to Hogwarts. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade have a lot in common (they’re only separated by 800 secret tunnels and passages in case you forgot) in terms of design but Hogwarts is all stonework and comes off as equal parts cathedral and castle.
The tone is dark, dark, heavy, and dark. Someone most have been awfully concerned with their appearance because all signs of overhead lighting have been banished from the school. Day one at Hogwarts must cover the Lumos spell because without it first years would be stumbling down the stairs and breaking more than rules. Not recommended for the muggle home. Actually the only way I believe one can bring this look in is to purchase a castle/cathedral and neglect to illuminate it. Bonus points if you can find a tapestry with a unicorn on it to throw over a chair. That is, if you can find the chair.
With wood, stone, and dirt being the primary decorative elements of the majority of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts it’s a notable shift when you enter Honeydukes- the sweet shop located in Hogsmeade.
Finally someone who owns a broom and a can of paint. The shop owners know that no one wants to buy their candy from a store that looks like the inside of Hagrid’s cabin. Especially when you’re selling jelly beans that taste like vomit. The floors are checkered and the walls are kelly green with pink and gold inlay. They even figured out how to shine a fixture and installed BEADBOARD. Christ their working hard to get my muggle money.
With that we leave Islands of Adventure and head over the Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter which starts off in London and turns into Diagon Alley, aka Wizarding Mall of America. While regular old muggle London (aka boring London) isn’t exactly the most exciting part for Potterheads there’s still notable design to mention here. We get our first glimpses of crisp colorblocking, hand painted signage, and fine tile work. In comparison to Hogsmeade everything is SO CLEAN and polished but still doesn’t seem overly fussy. I guess muggles are more into housekeeping than wizards, which makes no damned sense since they don’t even have house-elves to enslave. RIP Dobby.
Off we go through the passage way to Diagon Alley- mecca for the wizard burdened with an abundance of galleons.
The first thing you notice upon entering Diagon Alley is the giant dragon acting as a tree topper on Gringotts. You heard it hear first kids, next years Christmas tree will have a big old dragon breathing fire every 15 minutes. The central feature of Diagon Alley is Gringotts, but first lets focus on the surrounding shops.
These shops are obviously more fantastical and eccentric than those found in London but they also bare a fair amount of similarities. Brass, color blocking, and hand-painted details all make an impression here just as they do in plain old boring lame-pants London. Looks like muggles and wizard folk have a lot in common when it comes to commercialism.
The stand out features of these shops are most definitely the use of brass and light fixtures to elevate otherwise dull and simple spaces. Sure that door looks weathered and is desperately in need of a coat of paint (muggle priorities) but with the brass placard, knocker, and knob all is forgiven. It’s kind of rustic! Or maybe just lazy. Who knows, but somehow it works. Make note of that.
Finally, we arrive at Gringotts Wizarding Bank in the center of Diagon Alley and it’s very obviously the only game in town. Who’s ever heard of a wizard credit union? Not I. Get ready for everything else you’ve seen to look like a slum because these goblins know how to turn it up.
Gringotts is decked out in decorative trim, pillars of marble, patterned flooring, and chandeliers. The use of dark wood and brass continues in here as well as the use of sconces and lamps. The color pallet is black, gold, green, and white. It even smells of galleons, whatever that means. Everything is in impeccable condition and clearly these goblins aren’t afraid of a little Barkeepers Friend.
The take away from Gringotts? If you can afford it hire a goblin as your interior designer. Oh and black and gold look really fabulous together regardless of your budget.
And with that we’ve concluded our journey into the design of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It might seem a bit (a lot) ridiculous to spend so much time compiling photos of a theme park for inspiration but I found that these environments really resonated with me. They felt fun, warm, historic, and unpretentious. Well, except for Gringotts- goblins are definitely assholes and pretentious as all hell. Nevertheless, I learned a few key lessons. Brass done right goes historic more than trendy, lighting should not be last minute decision, and most importantly theres nothing wrong with bringing home a little magic.